The process is the problem for developers

Developer survey respondents sound off about their biggest gripe: management

Much like last year, the numbers in this year's survey showed developers continuing to take a conservative approach to adoption of new platforms, tools, and technologies. But more tellingly, respondents' answers to open-ended questions show that purchasing decisions are only half of the story. Survey participants say some of the most important problems lay not in the code, but in the inner workings of their development teams and processes.

"Speaking for my product, we have a large number of challenges, but these are a bit too complex to cover in detail here," says one respondent. "Let's just say that many of them stem from upper management."

Difficulty bridging the gap between management and front-line developers is a recurring theme. "We have too many managers that are unqualified for their jobs," writes one survey participant, while another says bluntly, "Upper management has no clue."

Most managers have no doubt come to expect such grumblings from employees, but other participants are more specific in their complaints.

"Our management wants things done yesterday with minimal resources and head count," one programmer tells us. For others, the greatest difficulty is in identifying and prioritizing tasks for each round of development.

"Scope creep is always a challenge," says one, referring to the tendency for product managers to continue to pile on new feature requests not included in the original proposal. Other survey participants echo this concern.

"Requirements change but schedules don't. [There's] no time to learn new techniques and [we're] always playing catch-up," writes one respondent.

"We are challenged with numerous project leaders, all having too much responsibility, introducing changes to the original plan," says another.

But sometimes even the best-laid plans can contribute to a poor development process -- particularly if they go to waste. "We've wasted a lot of effort on implementing strategies that were later abandoned," writes one participant, when asked why a project might fail to satisfy end-users.

The overall message from many respondents is that development initiatives would be more successful if the project-management process could be streamlined and made more transparent. That way, team leaders could make better use of resources and facilitate "knowledge transfer between project groups to prevent reinventing the wheel."

"Coordination of islands of information and feudal pockets of application development" is the biggest challenge for one developer, who cites "too many different application strategies, platforms, architectures, etc., without central planning."

Unfortunately, fixing these problems could prove to be an uphill battle in many organizations as long as top-down management practices, implemented without input from technical staff, persist. As one survey respondent puts it, "I'm just a developer. I often don't know what the grand plans are."